Getting To The Customer Experience Finish Line

This week we focuse on the trend toward declining customer satisfaction scores and what your organization can do to pull ahead of this problem. The solution, of course, is dependent on your organization recognizing that, because of higher expectations set by customer experience leaders such as Amazon, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, customers expect an ever-improving experience. Being good at what you do is no longer enough.

In his recent blog post, “Why Good is a Four-Letter Word,” customer experience author and speaker Jay Baer writes: “Exceptional brands understand that the customer experience finish line is a mirage, and are constantly upping their game.”

In research for his book, Talk Triggers, Baer discovered that most organizations could take cues from leaders to do more to improve customer experience, but choose not to. Why? Because they believe that being satisfactory in the products or services they provide is good enough. It’s not.

In today’s experience economy, where any competitor can copy what you do in virtually no time, having satisfied customers is not enough. To truly succeed you need to create rabid fans of your products and services. You must provide an experience that turns customers into advocates who are willing to help you share your story.

According to Baer, “Good enough is not enough. Good is the minimum prerequisite required for you to remain in business. Good does not create conversations. Good does not turn your customers into advocates. Good is not the goal.”

His recommendation is to create a series of checkpoints. Set the specific goals needed to dramatically improve your customer experience and make each a checkpoint. When you get to a checkpoint, take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back and start working toward the next checkpoint. And keep adding to your checkpoints because as soon as you reach one, your customers will very likely have increased their expectations once again.

Outline your customer service checkpoints, and start your journey to an exceptional customer experience.

Source: Jay Baer is president of Convince & Convert, a global keynote speaker and emcee, host of the Social Pros podcast, an inductee into the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Hall of Fame. He’s also the author of five books including Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers.

How To Respond Faster To Leads – And Why It Matters

What can you do in an hour? You can take lunch or connect with a friend over coffee. In about an hour you can get new glasses, get your oil changed or walk about 4,500 steps on the treadmill. It also takes the C

SI crew about an hour to solve a murder (including commercials, of course). An hour is also the maximum amount of time you should take to respond to an inbound lead. Why, specifically, an hour?

A study in Harvard Business Review analyzed 1.25 million leads across 29 business-to-consumer companies and 13 business-to-business companies. It found that companies that responded to inbound leads within one hour were seven times more likely to qualify the lead (have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker) than companies that responded within two hours. Plus, those that responded within one hour were 60 times more likely to qualify the lead than those who responded 24 hours or longer after receiving the lead.

In a recent article in Inc. magazine, Tommy Mello, the founder of A1 Garage Doors, shared four ways he makes sure his company responds to inbound leads within that critical first hour.

Review your org chart. It isn’t necessary for all employees to be focused on hyper response. Take a look at your organization and identify those who should be.

Make hyper-responsiveness a key metric that you measure. After you know who needs to respond quickly, put the expectations in place. Do they need to respond in five minutes or an hour? Make sure you have the tools and systems in place to track the time to respond and the results.

Provide a centralized customer relation

ship management system. Using a centralized CRM will allow your sales teams to have all the information they need in front of them and provide reminders for follow up. It also allows the company to see who the top performers are to benchmark and replicate their processes across the rest of the team.

Create an FAQ template. Responding quickly has the risk of responding poorly due to the time pressure. Having templates in places to help your employees respond to the most common types of inbound leads will help minimize missteps and keep the conversations on point.

Four Ways To Close Your Best Candidate

No matter how large and successful your business, you need to hire great talent to succeed. Getting that talent is 100 percent a sales process. Perhaps, the most critical stage of this process is extending a job offer to the prized candidate.

Once you’ve found the ideal candidate, follow these three proven steps from Patrick McHargue, director of talent at PromoPlacement, to successfully make the job offer and ensure it’s accepted.

1. Formalize Your Offer. The first step to extending a job offer is getting the offer down on paper in an organized and easy-to-comprehend way. Focus on the main points and make the offer clear and to the point. If you make it too complex, you’ll likely confuse the candidate.

The offer letter should be on your company letterhead and include the following:

  • An introduction that expresses your excitement and hopes for a long relationship
  • Title of the position being offered
  • Potential start date
  • Compensation/pay period
  • Overview of health insurance benefits
  • Number of sick, personal and vacation days
  • Space for the candidate to sign to confirm their acceptance of the offer

2. Sell The Opportunity. The recruiting and hiring process needs to be a marriage of your human resources and sales/marketing teams. In today’s highly competitive talent market, you need to sell the candidate on why he or she should join your company. Sell your company culture, your growth rate, opportunity for promotion and your company’s position in the market place. Sell whatever you must sell about your company and the opportunity. Make it compelling or you will lose your candidate.

3. Present Over The Phone. The single most important aspect of extending a job offer is how you present the offer to your candidate. There are several ways but by far the most effective method is to review the offer over the phone with your candidate. To do this, schedule an offer call with your candidate. Email the offer letter just before your call and read it over together on the phone.

This method is the strongest option for two reasons. First, it allows you to get the genuine first reaction of your candidate as he or she is seeing the offer for the first time. Second, it segues perfectly into a close.

4. Close! Offer your candidate the opportunity to join your team and close the deal. As you read over and review the offer letter with your candidate, clarify any questions that he or she may have. Then get the person on board by saying something like, “Would the second or the ninth be better for your first day with the team?”

Extending a job offer the right way is all about presenting your candidate with reasons to want to join your team. Follow these simple steps and your offers will be accepted far more often, and you’ll have a strong advantage over competitors in the talent war going on now in the promotional product industry.

Source: Patrick McHargue is the director of talent at PromoPlacement, an industry search and placement firm. He grew up in the promotional product industry, earned an MBA ininternational business, and managed a $35 million sales territory before focusing on the development of tools and services to benefit the promotional product industry.

Do You Really Need An App for That?

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? According to a report from App Annie, the average smartphone user accesses over 30 apps monthly—and these are approximately one-third to one-half of the total apps installed on their phones. With the Apple App Store expecting to offer five million apps by 2020, it’s certain that app usage will continue to rise.

As business owners, we feel the pressure to develop an app. Why? It makes us “current.” It provides convenience for the customer. It sets us apart from the competition. And the reasons continue. However, unless your business already has a developer team in house, an app can be a costly investment that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a return on investment.

Today we share these key questions to ask when deciding whether or not to invest in app development, according to Sarah Perez, writer for TechCrunch.

1. Would it provide value to your customers? The first question many business leaders ask themselves is whether developing an app would be good for the company. There are a million reasons why apps can benefit any business, but what is most important is whether an app would add value to your customers.

Even if you don’t use technology to make transactions, many businesses can find creative ways to provide value to customers with an app, from ordering products to tracking delivery. Getting customers to download an app is easy. But whether it adds value to their experience with your business is the biggest question, so ask your customers what they need.

2. Do you want to stand out from the competition? Big or small, almost all businesses today have a website. What’s less common for small businesses is having a mobile app that customers want to download and use. If none of your competitors have already made a killer app, that may be the reason to get a jumpstart and provide value that no one else is offering.

3. Does the return on investment outweigh the cost of hiring a developer? If hiring a developer will cost more than business gained or retained from the app, then perhaps focusing on updating your website is a better use of resources. Find out if your customers spend more time on their phones, tablets or computers— then you’ll know where to invest for the most visibility.

Mobile apps might not be right for every business. But knowing how customers spend their time and providing value to them is important for any business wanting to stay on top.

Source: Sarah Perez currently works as a writer for TechCrunch, after having previously spent more than three years at ReadWriteWeb. Prior to her work as a reporter, she worked in IT across a number of industries, including banking, retail and software.

Three C’s To Hiring The Right Person

Have you ever led a team where everyone seems to gel together? You reach success with a highly effective team in both the work they produce and in the attitude of the team. But how do you bring about this type of teamwork?

It starts with hiring the right people. As a leader, one of the hardest jobs is to add high-quality people to your team.

The more homework you do on the front end of the selection process, the better chance you’ll have of finding the right fit, says Ron Edmondson, a church leader and pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This homework requires that you look within yourself to see what you need most in another person.

Edmondson suggests the next time you have an open position, to consider these three C’s. Which of these types of people would be most helpful to you at this time in your leadership?

1. Someone Who Complements You. This person can do more of what you do. If you are strategic—they are strategic. If you are a relational leader—they will be more so. It could be there’s just not enough of you to go around, but you need more of what you bring to your organization. Edmondson explains that in his large and growing church, he did this by hiring another executive pastor, so the church now has two leaders—one that is relational and one that is strategic.

2. Someone Who Completes You. What are you missing that you simply can’t bring to the team? It could be a quality you are not wired to provide or you no longer have enough time to provide it. This person can fill in gaps you have in your leadership. And, we all have those gaps. Edmondson gives the example of when his church hired a senior adult pastor who was still in the prime of his career. This role was needed because the church had a large senior population and this person provided this demographic with someone they could trust and feel comfortable with; it filled a gap for the church. So where are the gaps or missing holes on your team? Consider, not the open position, but the talent and personality you need for your team.

3. Someone Who Competes With You. This type of person could be needed as you are looking to transition out as a leader or if your organization is large enough to be investing in the next generation of leaders. This is the person who eventually wants your job. They want to do what you do someday, perhaps even more than the position for which you are hiring them. And, if they are really good, they are going to, at times, appear to be in direct competition for yo

ur job. This type of person will push you to be a better leader, and will also serve as bench strength for your team.

Edmondson sums it up by explaining, “You have to decide what you want or need in the person you are hiring. This is beneficial for you and the person who will come to work with you. And, it can hopefully help you avoid making a mistake in hiring.”

Source: As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, a church leader and the planter of two churches, Ron Edmondson is passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. His specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to his role as a pastor, he consults with church and ministry leaders.

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Sincere Questions That Cut Through Small Talk

One thing I know for sure about myself is this: I’m not great at small talk. I wasn’t born with the gift of gab. While I thrive on other people’s energy, I hate to come up with frivolous conversation starters. I’d much rather jump right into a meaningful dialogue than participate in idle chatter. This makes opportunities like networking events a bit intimidating. And I’m certain I’m not the only one with this aversion to small-talk.

Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, discovered that to be able to draw people in, he simply had to ask the right questions. Here, we’ll share some of Schwantes’ questions that drive interest and persuasion in a professional conversation. He points out that the first four questions are borrowed from business author David Burkus, which were shared in the Harvard Business Review.

1. What excites you right now? As Burkus explains, this question can go in many directions with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your personal life or work life, which will open the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to? Like the last question, this one is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.”

3. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year? It’s the same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest for further discussion.

4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues and wait for the right timing.

5. What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story—a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for a startup, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments? This question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport more quickly. Obviously, asking a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

7. Why did you choose your profession? This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow-up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone’s journey. It speaks to people’s values, what motivates them and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading? You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also, use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now? To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people will be by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition will be to business, conducting a sales pitch or exploring partnerships once both parties know each other.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is an expert in developing exceptional servant leadership work cultures where employees, managers, executives and their businesses thrive. He is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser, and keynote speaker.

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Strengthen Your Ability To Influence Others

When you observe leaders, do you notice a common thread? It’s not that people follow them— although that is an outcome of successful leadership. The common thread is that leaders have the ability to influence others. It’s a fundamental skill that leaders must master in order to be effective.

Here, we share four key points from the book Lead 4 Success: Learn the Essentials of True Leadership. The book points out that influencing others is one of the fundamental four skills of a leader (communicating, learning agility and self-awareness are the other three).

Leaders tap the knowledge and skills of a group, point individuals toward a common goal and draw out a commitment to achieve results. How do they do that? Here are the four influencing skills they use:

1. Political Intelligence: All organizations have two sides: The formal structure pictured on the organization chart and the informal organization that shows how (sometimes) things really get done. Politically savvy leaders understand both. They view politics as a neutral and necessary part of organizational life that can be used constructively and ethically to advance organizational aims.

For a leader, political savvy in action looks like this:

  • Networking to build social capital, including mingling strategically
  • Thinking before responding, considering context and goals before deciding when and how to express themselves
  • Paying close attention to nonverbal cues, practicing active listening, considering how others might feel and finding ways to appeal to the common good
  • Leaving people with a good impression, without coming across as trying too hard

2. Promote Yourself, Promote the Organization: Self-promotion is often seen as bragging or selfishness, but influential leaders know that by promoting themselves authentically, for the right reasons, they can cut through the information that bombards us each day. It can provide visibility and opportunities for their direct reports, generate team and organizational pride, and make capabilities and ideas more visible across the organization, which ultimately enhances collaboration.

Two self-promotion strategies stand out. First, leaders who are good at this skill find ways to gather an audience. They may ask more people to be part of a team, initiative or problem-solving process. Second, self-promoters find ways to step into the spotlight at selected events and meetings, sometimes creating their own events.

3. Build And Maintain A Foundation Of Trust: Without trust, leaders may be able to force people to comply, but they’ll never tap into the full commitment, capabilities and creativity the group can offer. Leveraging these assets is invaluable when tackling tough challenges or making strategic change—so trust is vital.

Trust involves a careful balance between pushing people into areas where they’re uncomfortable while also listening carefully to their concerns and feedback. Leaders must work to maintain their trustworthiness, weigh their toughness and empathy as individuals, manage their struggle with transition and temper urgency with patience as change proceeds.

4. Network Influence. Finally, leaders who are skilled at influencing others recognize and cultivate the power of networks. Organizations are increasingly dynamic; they morph in size and shape over time. Influential leaders recognize that their personal networks must also be dynamic, and they continually grow and strengthen their networks. They are also strategic about choosing how and when to tap into this network.

Practice these for skill sets and watch your level of influence grow.

Source: George Hallenbeck is the author of Lead 4 Success: Learn the Essentials of True Leadership as well as director of Commercialization for CCL Associates where he leads an innovation platform called All-Access Leadership. It is focused on enhancing, re-imagining and creating product offerings that empower and enable clients to deliver and experience CCL’s intellectual property in ways that match their needs and strategies. Hallenbeck has co-authored seven books including FYI for Learning Agility and Learning Agility: Unlock the Lessons of Experience, and has another forthcoming book as well. He has written numerous white papers and journal articles, as well as pieces for publications such as BusinessWeek Online and CLOmagazine.

Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments that support productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

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Using “Thank-You” To Get What You Want

Most of us like to be thanked, especially when the sentiment is sincere. For that reason, saying “thank-you” is one of the most powerful phrases in any language.

Upon meeting you, a job candidate thanks you for considering him for the position. Your boss thanks you in a staff meeting for the project you are about to undertake. A sign in your gym thanks members for placing used towels in the hamper.

Today, we share these insights into the power of saying thank-you in advance to get what you want from Kate Zabriskie, president of Business Training Works, Inc.

Why A Thank-You In Advance Works

Zabriskie says that thanking people in advance works for a several reasons. The first has to do with a sense of obligation many people feel to reciprocate after they’ve received something.

The second explanation for the technique’s effectiveness is because people want to conform to a positive image of themselves. In other words, “I’m going to act like a good worker because I am a good worker.”

A third explanation for the power of this method has to do with instruction. Often, we assume people intuitively know what they are supposed to do. Guess what? Many don’t. They’ve forgotten, they’re preoccupied or they’re simply not thinking. Offered in the right way, many people will follow a suggested course of action, because it’s the path of least resistance.

The Structure Of Saying Thank-You In Advance

To plan an advanced thank-you, use the following framework:

1. Think about the desired result. “I want my employees to show up on time.”

2. Identify the type of people who typically demonstrate that behavior. “Responsible and accountable people show up on time.”

3. Craft a statement that identifies the people you are addressing as that group, and be specific about the result you want to see. For example: “I appreciate the fact that I have such a dedicated team. I want to thank you in advance for giving 110 percent this week. The hours during this busy season are demanding, and it takes a true group of professionals to act upbeat and engaged with every visitor. This is why we hired you.”

Tips and Cautions:

1. Thanking people for good behavior should be done before you’ve observed anything particularly egregious. For example, imagine a chaotic scene in a retail environment where customers are pushing and shoving each other. It’s more difficult to thank them into a reverse course after they’ve gone wild. However, a little advanced gratitude offered earlier could have helped avoid mayhem.

2. Thanking people is not a substitute for confronting inappropriate behavior. For example, if an employee comes to work dressed improperly, you can’t thank your way around addressing the problem. However, you can use a thank you as part of the corrective conversation. “Mary, I appreciate you listening to me this morning, and I want to thank you in advance for taking the conversation seriously. I know you have what it takes to represent our company well. I look forward to seeing you be successful here.”

3. Thanking people for everything dilutes the method’s effectiveness. “Bill, I want to thank you for coming in on time today. I know how important punctuality is to you, so thank you for parking in the employee lot and not taking a visitor’s space.” Too much of that, and Bill is going to think you’ve got a screw or two loose. Worse still, he’s not going to believe a word you say.

Perfecting the science and art of the advanced thank-you takes time but it can be an important tool of influence.

PCT wants to thank you in advance for checking your inbox tomorrow for the next issue.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.

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Six Body Language Tricks To Create Instant Rapport

Research shows that up to 80 percent of the information we receive in personal conversation is transmitted nonverbally, making body language as critical as the words we use. According to the book, How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes, you can capture and hold anyone’s attention without saying a single word.

here we take a look as, Business Insider contributor Maggie Zhang shares these body language tips from Lowndes’ book for capturing someone’s attention. Try these during your next prospect or customer meeting to increase your credibility and engagement.

1. The Flooding Smile: “Don’t flash an immediate smile when you greet someone,” says Lowndes. If you do, it appears as if anyone in your line of sight would receive that same smile. Instead, pause and look at the other person’s face for a second, and then let a “big, warm, responsive smile flood over your face and overflow into your eyes.”

This delayed, slower smile creates a sense of sincerity and the recipient feels like this smile was specifically for them. It increases the depth of how people perceive you.

2. Sticky Eyes: “Pretend your eyes are glued to your conversation partner’s eyes with sticky, warm taffy,” Lowndes advises. After the person speaks, don’t break eye contact. Lowndes says, “When you must look away, do it ever so slowly, reluctantly, stretching the gooey taffy until the tiny string finally breaks.” You can also try counting your conversation partner’s blinks to maintain eye contact. In a case study, subjects reported significantly higher feelings of respect and fondness for their colleagues who used this technique.

3. Epoxy Eyes: In a group of people, you should occasionally look at the person you are interested in, no matter who else is talking. If your attention is drawn to that person even when they are simply listening, you show that you are interested in his or her reactions. You should primarily watch the speaker, but allow your glance to bounce to your target when the speaker finishes interesting points.

4. The Big-Baby Pivot: People are very conscious of how you react to them. When you meet someone new, turn your body fully toward them and give them the same, undivided attention you would give a baby. Lowndes says, “Pivoting 100 percent toward the new person shouts, ‘I think you are very, very special.'”

5. Limit The Fidget: If you want to appear credible, try not to move too much when your conversation really matters. “Do not fidget, twitch, wiggle, squirm or scratch,” Lowndes says. Frequent hand motions near your face can give your listener the feeling that you’re lying or anxious. Instead, simply fix a constant gaze on the listener and show them that you’re fully concentrated on the matter at hand.

6. Hello, Old Friend: When you first meet someone, imagine they’re your old friend. According to Lowndes, this will cause a lot of subconscious reactions in your body, from the softening of your eyebrows to the positioning of your toes. When you act as though you like someone, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy — you might really start to like them. The next time you are introduced to someone new, try this positive approach.

Using these tips in various business settings will set the tone for more positive working relationships.

Source: Maggie Zhang, an English major from Princeton University, is an editorial intern at Business Insider. Her article appeared in the Thrive Global Community.

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